Quote of the Moment: American poet Phillis Wheatley, the drive for freedom

February 19, 2018

Poet Phillis Wheatley at the Boston Women's Memorial; Lucy Stone in the background.

Phillis Wheatley at the Boston Women’s Memorial; Lucy Stone Abigail Adams in the background.

Phillis Wheatley lived as a slave in Boston, Massachusetts, during the American Revolution. Because she wrote so well, she avoided many of the problems of slavery until her master died. She died a few years later, in poverty, never achieving the fame or income she deserved.

She wrote about the Love of Freedom:

. . . in every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance … the same Principle lives in us.

Letter to the Reverend Samson Occom, February 11, 1774

Wheatley is featured in a stunning sculpture in Boston’s Women’s Memorial, with Abigail Adams and Lucy Stone.

Boston Women's Memorial at the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, featuring Phillis Wheatley, Lucy Stone and Abigail Adams.

Boston Women’s Memorial at the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, featuring Phillis Wheatley, Lucy Stone and Abigail Adams.

More:


Georgia’s vote ratified the 13th Amendment, December 6, 1865

December 6, 2016

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. National Archives image.

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. National Archives image.

On December 6, 1865, Georgia’s legislature voted to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, pushing the total of states past the three-fourths margin required, 27 of 36 states. Secretary of State William Seward proclaimed the amendment ratified 12 days later, on December 18.

But we celebrate it in February.

February 1 is National Freedom Day in the U.S.

Text courtesy of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University, 36 U.S. Code § 124 reads:

The President may issue each year a proclamation designating February 1 as National Freedom Day to commemorate the signing by Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1865, of the joint resolution adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives that proposed the 13th amendment to the Constitution.

(Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1259.)

The Library of Congress collects original documents teachers and students can use to study the 13th Amendment; here’s the full page, copied in case they change it:

Primary Documents in American History

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Thomas Nast's celebration of the emancipation of Southern slaves with the end of the Civil War.
Thomas Nast.
Emancipation.
Philadelphia: S. Bott, 1865.
Wood engraving.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZ62-2573

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.

References to debate on the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) can be found in the Congressional Globe on the following dates:

  • March 31, 1864 – Debated in the Senate (S.J. Res. 16).
  • April 4, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 5, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 6, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 7, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 8, 1864 – The Senate passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 38 to 6.
  • June 14, 1864 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • June 15, 1864 – The House of Representatives initially defeated the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 93 in favor, 65 opposed, and 23 not voting, which is less than the two-thirds majority needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment.
  • December 6, 1864 – Abraham Lincoln’s Fourth Annual Message to Congress was printed in the Congressional Globe: “At the last session of Congress a proposed amendment of the Constitution, abolishing slavery throughout the United States, passed the Senate, but failed for lack of the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives. Although the present is the same Congress, and nearly the same members, and without questioning the wisdom or patriotism of those who stood in opposition, I venture to recommend the reconsideration and passage of the measure at the present session.
  • January 6, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives (S.J. Res. 16).
  • January 7, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 9, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 10, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 11, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 12, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 13, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 28, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 31, 1865 – The House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 119 to 56.
  • February 1, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln signed a Joint Resolution submitting the proposed 13th Amendment to the states.
  • December 18, 1865 – Secretary of State William Seward issued a statement verifying the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

The complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 20,000 documents. The collection is organized into three “General Correspondence” series which include incoming and outgoing correspondence and enclosures, drafts of speeches, and notes and printed material. Most of the 20,000 items are from the 1850s through Lincoln’s presidential years, 1860-65.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Search the Abraham Lincoln Papers using the phrase “13th amendment” to locate additional documents on this topic.

The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

This collection documents the life of Abraham Lincoln both through writings by and about Lincoln as well as a large body of publications concerning the issues of the times including slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and related topics.

From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1822-1909

This collection presents 396 pamphlets from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, published from 1822 through 1909, by African-American authors and others who wrote about slavery, African colonization, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and related topics.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Chronicling America

This site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1836 to 1922. Search this collection to find newspaper articles about the 13th Amendment.

A selection of articles on the 13th Amendment includes:

Congress.gov

Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation

The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (popularly known as the Constitution Annotated) contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law. This regularly updated resource is especially useful when researching the constitutional implications of a specific issue or topic. It includes a chapter on the 13th Amendment. (PDF, 201 KB)

Exhibitions

The African-American Mosaic

This exhibit marks the publication of The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. This exhibit is a sampler of the kinds of materials and themes covered by this publication. Includes a section on the abolition movement and the end of slavery.

African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship

This exhibition showcases the African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displays more than 240 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings. Includes a brochure from an exhibit at the Library of Congress to mark the 75th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment.

American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Abolition of Slavery

An online exhibit of the engrossed copy of the 13th Amendment as signed by Abraham Lincoln and members of Congress.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom

This exhibition, which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, explores the events that shaped the civil rights movement, as well as the far-reaching impact the act had on a changing society.

The Teachers Page

American Memory Timeline: The Freedmen

The Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment freed all slaves in the United States. This page links to related primary source documents.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln Association

Documents from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, University of Maryland

End of Slavery: The Creation of the 13th Amendment, HarpWeek

“I Will Be Heard!” Abolitionism in America, Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections

Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments, U.S. Senate

Mr. Lincoln and Freedom, The Lincoln Institute

Our Documents, 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration

Proclamation of the Secretary of State Regarding the Ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, National Archives and Records Administration

Proposed Thirteenth Amendment Regarding the Abolition of Slavery, National Archives and Records Administration

The Thirteenth Amendment, National Constitution Center

Selected Bibliography

Avins, Alfred, comp. The Reconstruction Amendments’ Debates: The Legislative History and Contemporary Debates in Congress on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Richmond: Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government, 1967. [Catalog Record]

Hoemann, George H. What God Hath Wrought: The Embodiment of Freedom in the Thirteenth Amendment. New York: Garland Pub., 1987. [Catalog Record]

Holzer, Harold, and Sara Vaughn Gabbard, eds. Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007. [Catalog Record]

Maltz, Earl M. Civil Rights, the Constitution, and Congress, 1863-1869. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 1990. [Catalog Record]

Richards, Leonard L. Who Freed the Slaves?: The Fight Over the Thirteenth Amendment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015. [Catalog Record]

Tsesis, Alexander, ed. The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. [Catalog Record]

—–. The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History. New York: New York University Press, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Vorenberg, Michael. Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Biscontini, Tracey and Rebecca Sparling, eds. Amendment XIII: Abolishing Slavery. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009. [Catalog Record]

Burgan, Michael. The Reconstruction Amendments. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006. [Catalog Record]

Schleichert, Elizabeth. The Thirteenth Amendment: Ending Slavery. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1998. [Catalog Record]

Save

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


You’d think more Americans would want to celebrate National Freedom Day

February 1, 2016

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. National Archives image.

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. National Archives image.

Any parades planned in your town? Are your neighbors flying flags to celebrate today, February 1?

If not, do you know why that would matter to anyone?

February 1 is National Freedom Day in the U.S.

Text courtesy of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University, 36 U.S. Code § 124 reads:

The President may issue each year a proclamation designating February 1 as National Freedom Day to commemorate the signing by Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1865, of the joint resolution adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives that proposed the 13th amendment to the Constitution.

(Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1259.)

Did anyone notice, this year?

You’d think Iowa would have made it a holiday for Republicans and caucus members.

The Library of Congress collects original documents teachers and students can use to study the 13th Amendment; here’s the full page, copied in case they change it:

Primary Documents in American History

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Thomas Nast's celebration of the emancipation of Southern slaves with the end of the Civil War.
Thomas Nast.
Emancipation.
Philadelphia: S. Bott, 1865.
Wood engraving.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZ62-2573

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.

References to debate on the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) can be found in the Congressional Globe on the following dates:

  • March 31, 1864 – Debated in the Senate (S.J. Res. 16).
  • April 4, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 5, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 6, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 7, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 8, 1864 – The Senate passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 38 to 6.
  • June 14, 1864 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • June 15, 1864 – The House of Representatives initially defeated the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 93 in favor, 65 opposed, and 23 not voting, which is less than the two-thirds majority needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment.
  • December 6, 1864 – Abraham Lincoln’s Fourth Annual Message to Congress was printed in the Congressional Globe: “At the last session of Congress a proposed amendment of the Constitution, abolishing slavery throughout the United States, passed the Senate, but failed for lack of the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives. Although the present is the same Congress, and nearly the same members, and without questioning the wisdom or patriotism of those who stood in opposition, I venture to recommend the reconsideration and passage of the measure at the present session.
  • January 6, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives (S.J. Res. 16).
  • January 7, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 9, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 10, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 11, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 12, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 13, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 28, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 31, 1865 – The House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 119 to 56.
  • February 1, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln signed a Joint Resolution submitting the proposed 13th Amendment to the states.
  • December 18, 1865 – Secretary of State William Seward issued a statement verifying the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

The complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 20,000 documents. The collection is organized into three “General Correspondence” series which include incoming and outgoing correspondence and enclosures, drafts of speeches, and notes and printed material. Most of the 20,000 items are from the 1850s through Lincoln’s presidential years, 1860-65.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Search the Abraham Lincoln Papers using the phrase “13th amendment” to locate additional documents on this topic.

The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

This collection documents the life of Abraham Lincoln both through writings by and about Lincoln as well as a large body of publications concerning the issues of the times including slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and related topics.

From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1822-1909

This collection presents 396 pamphlets from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, published from 1822 through 1909, by African-American authors and others who wrote about slavery, African colonization, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and related topics.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Chronicling America

This site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1836 to 1922. Search this collection to find newspaper articles about the 13th Amendment.

A selection of articles on the 13th Amendment includes:

Congress.gov

Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation

The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (popularly known as the Constitution Annotated) contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law. This regularly updated resource is especially useful when researching the constitutional implications of a specific issue or topic. It includes a chapter on the 13th Amendment. (PDF, 201 KB)

Exhibitions

The African-American Mosaic

This exhibit marks the publication of The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. This exhibit is a sampler of the kinds of materials and themes covered by this publication. Includes a section on the abolition movement and the end of slavery.

African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship

This exhibition showcases the African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displays more than 240 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings. Includes a brochure from an exhibit at the Library of Congress to mark the 75th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment.

American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Abolition of Slavery

An online exhibit of the engrossed copy of the 13th Amendment as signed by Abraham Lincoln and members of Congress.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom

This exhibition, which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, explores the events that shaped the civil rights movement, as well as the far-reaching impact the act had on a changing society.

The Teachers Page

American Memory Timeline: The Freedmen

The Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment freed all slaves in the United States. This page links to related primary source documents.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln Association

Documents from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, University of Maryland

End of Slavery: The Creation of the 13th Amendment, HarpWeek

“I Will Be Heard!” Abolitionism in America, Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections

Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments, U.S. Senate

Mr. Lincoln and Freedom, The Lincoln Institute

Our Documents, 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration

Proclamation of the Secretary of State Regarding the Ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, National Archives and Records Administration

Proposed Thirteenth Amendment Regarding the Abolition of Slavery, National Archives and Records Administration

The Thirteenth Amendment, National Constitution Center

Selected Bibliography

Avins, Alfred, comp. The Reconstruction Amendments’ Debates: The Legislative History and Contemporary Debates in Congress on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Richmond: Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government, 1967. [Catalog Record]

Hoemann, George H. What God Hath Wrought: The Embodiment of Freedom in the Thirteenth Amendment. New York: Garland Pub., 1987. [Catalog Record]

Holzer, Harold, and Sara Vaughn Gabbard, eds. Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007. [Catalog Record]

Maltz, Earl M. Civil Rights, the Constitution, and Congress, 1863-1869. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 1990. [Catalog Record]

Richards, Leonard L. Who Freed the Slaves?: The Fight Over the Thirteenth Amendment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015. [Catalog Record]

Tsesis, Alexander, ed. The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. [Catalog Record]

—–. The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History. New York: New York University Press, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Vorenberg, Michael. Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Biscontini, Tracey and Rebecca Sparling, eds. Amendment XIII: Abolishing Slavery. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009. [Catalog Record]

Burgan, Michael. The Reconstruction Amendments. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006. [Catalog Record]

Schleichert, Elizabeth. The Thirteenth Amendment: Ending Slavery. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1998. [Catalog Record]


July 10, 1850: Last of the Whigs, Millard Fillmore sworn in as president

July 10, 2015

Bust of Millard Fillmore as Vice President, by Robert Cushing. Fillmore served 17 months as Vice President and President of the Senate. Photo from the U.S. Senate

Bust of Millard Fillmore as Vice President, by Robert Cushing. Fillmore served 17 months as Vice President and President of the Senate. Photo from the U.S. Senate

Whig Party? Does anyone know what a Whig stood for any more?

Millard Fillmore was elected vice president riding the ticket with the very popular Gen. Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican War.  Fillmore was a capable, yeoman politicians from a northern state; with only one president’s death in the preceding 59 years, parties had not yet figured out that the vice presidential candidate probably ought to be able to serve as president. Regional balance of the ticket was enough.

About 15 months into his presidency, President Taylor took ill  after presiding over July 4 festivities in blazing heat.  He died on July 9, 1850; Vice President Millard Fillmore took the oath as president the next day, and served out the term.  165 years ago today, Millard Fillmore served his first day as President, July 10, 1850.

Fillmore became the second person to take the presidency of the U.S. without having been elected.  John Tyler was William Henry Harrison’s vice president when Harrison died of pneumonia a mere 31 days after being sworn in as president.

Millard Fillmore in an 1850 lithograph by Francis DAvignon after a photograph by Matthew Brady (unclear if this was before or after his ascending to the presidency) - Library of Congress image

Millard Fillmore in an 1850 lithograph by Francis D’Avignon after a photograph by Matthew Brady (unclear if this was before or after his ascending to the presidency) – Library of Congress image

As president, Zachary Taylor encouraged New Mexico and California to draw up state constitutions, which would have disallowed slavery in those states.  To southern leaders who threatened secession, Taylor promised to personally lead the army that would hold the union together by force, and personally hang those who had proposed rebellion.  Fillmore succeeded Taylor at a crucial time in the union’s history, on the knife-edge of states’ seceding over the issues of slavery.

Fillmore had presided over the Senate during months of furious debate on issues that always seemed to come down to slavery.  Because he didn’t hold to the views of the Whig Party which had elected the Taylor-Fillmore ticket, even more than Taylor had strayed, the cabinet resigned.  Fillmore appointed Daniel Webster as Secretary of State, and proceeded to push for compromise on issues to avoid war.  His machinations helped get California admitted as a free state, but left New Mexico as a territory.  Fillmore’s support of the Fugitive Slave Act alienated even more Whigs, and by 1852 the Whigs refused to nominate Fillmore for a term of his own.  He left office in 1853, succeeded by Franklin Pierce.

Fillmore’s greatest accomplishment as president, perhaps, was his sending a fleet of ships to Japan to force that nation to open up to trade from the U.S.  The political furor over the Fugitive Slave Act, the Missouri Compromise, and other issues around slavery, tend to eclipse the memory of the good that Fillmore did.

Nota bene:  Controversy surrounded the death of Taylor.  Because he had threatened southern secessionists and incurred anger from several other groups, from the time of his death there were rumors he had been poisoned with arsenic.  Officially, the cause of death was gastroenteritis; popular accounts note that he had, in the heat of July, drunk milk and eaten cherries and cucumbers.  Certainly strep, staph or other bacteria in the milk could have created a problem.  In 1991 a team led by George Washington University Law Professor James Starrs exhumed Taylor’s body from his Louisville, Kentucky burial plot, and tested his remains for arsenic at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Analysis presented to the Kentucky medical examiner indicated arsenic levels way too low for a poisoning victim.

[This is an encore post, in parts.]

More:

"An Available Candidate: The One Qualific...

“An Available Candidate: The One Qualification for a Whig President”. Political cartoon about the 1848 presidential election which refers to Zachary Taylor or Winfield Scott, the two leading contenders for the Whig Party nomination in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. Published by Nathaniel Currier in 1848, digitally restored. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  Despite the cynicism of many , Zachary Taylor won the Whig Party nomination, and the presidency.  Taylor died just over a year after his inauguration.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


July 10, 1850: Millard Fillmore sworn in as president

July 10, 2014

Millard Fillmore was elected vice president largely because he was on the ticket with the very popular Gen. Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican War.

About 15 months into his presidency, President Taylor took ill  after presiding over July 4 festivities in blazing heat.  He died on July 9, 1850; Vice President Millard Fillmore took the oath as president the next day, and served out the term.  164 years ago today, Millard Fillmore served his first day as President.

Fillmore became the second person to take the presidency of the U.S. without having been elected.  John Tyler was William Henry Harrison’s vice president when Harrison died of pneumonia a mere 31 days after being sworn in as president.

Millard Fillmore in an 1850 lithograph by Francis DAvignon after a photograph by Matthew Brady (unclear if this was before or after his ascending to the presidency) - Library of Congress image

Millard Fillmore in an 1850 lithograph by Francis D’Avignon after a photograph by Matthew Brady (unclear if this was before or after his ascending to the presidency) – Library of Congress image

Zachary Taylor had encouraged New Mexico and California to draw up state constitutions, which would have disallowed slavery in those states.  To southern leaders who threatened secession, Taylor promised to personally lead the army that would hold the union together by force, and personally hang those who had proposed rebellion.

Fillmore had presided over the Senate during months of furious debate on issues that always seemed to come down to slavery.  Because he didn’t hold to the views of the Whig Party which had elected the Taylor-Fillmore ticket, even more than Taylor had strayed, the cabinet resigned.  Fillmore appointed Daniel Webster as Secretary of State, and proceeded to push for compromise on issues to avoid war.  His machinations helped get California admitted as a free state, but left New Mexico as a territory.  His support of the Fugitive Slave Act alienated even more Whigs, and by 1852 the Whigs refused to nominate Fillmore for a term of his own.  He left office in 1853, succeeded by Franklin Pierce.

Fillmore’s greatest accomplishment as president, perhaps, was his sending a fleet of ships to Japan to force that nation to open up to trade from the U.S.  The political furor over the Fugitive Slave Act, the Missouri Compromise, and other issues around slavery, tend to eclipse the memory of the good that Fillmore did.

Nota bene:  Controversy surrounded the death of Taylor.  Because he had threatened southern secessionists and incurred anger from several other groups, from the time of his death there were rumors he had been poisoned with arsenic.  Officially, the cause of death was gastroenteritis; popular accounts note that he had, in the heat of July, drunk milk and eaten cherries and cucumbers.  Certainly strep, staph or other bacteria in the milk could have created a problem.  In 1991 a team led by George Washington University Law Professor James Starrs exhumed Taylor’s body from his Louisville, Kentucky burial plot, and tested his remains for arsenic at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Analysis presented to the Kentucky medical examiner indicated arsenic levels way too low for a poisoning victim.

[This is an encore post, in parts.]

More:

"An Available Candidate: The One Qualific...

“An Available Candidate: The One Qualification for a Whig President”. Political cartoon about the 1848 presidential election which refers to Zachary Taylor or Winfield Scott, the two leading contenders for the Whig Party nomination in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. Published by Nathaniel Currier in 1848, digitally restored. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  Despite the cynicism of many , Zachary Taylor won the Whig Party nomination, and the presidency.  Taylor died just over a year after his inauguration.


July 10, 1850, Millard Fillmore succeeds to the presidency

July 10, 2013

Millard Fillmore was elected vice president largely because he was on the ticket with the very popular Gen. Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican War.

About 15 months into his presidency, President Taylor took ill  after presiding over July 4 festivities in blazing heat.  He died on July 9, 1850; Vice President Millard Fillmore took the oath as president the next day, and served out the term.  163 years ago today, Millard Fillmore served his first day as President.

Millard Fillmore in an 1850 lithograph by Francis DAvignon after a photograph by Matthew Brady (unclear if this was before or after his ascending to the presidency) - Library of Congress image

Millard Fillmore in an 1850 lithograph by Francis D’Avignon after a photograph by Matthew Brady (unclear if this was before or after his ascending to the presidency) – Library of Congress image

Taylor had encouraged New Mexico and California to draw up state constitutions, which would have disallowed slavery in those states.  To southern leaders who threatened secession, Taylor promised to personally lead the army that would hold the union together by force, and personally hang those who had proposed rebellion.

Fillmore had presided over the Senate during months of furious debate on issues that always seemed to come down to slavery.  Because he didn’t hold to the views of the Whig Party which had elected the Taylor-Fillmore ticket, even more than Taylor had strayed, the cabinet resigned.  Fillmore appointed Daniel Webster as Secretary of State, and proceeded to push for compromise on issues to avoid war.  His machinations helped get California admitted as a free state, but left New Mexico as a territory.  His support of the Fugitive Slave Act alienated even more Whigs, and by 1852 the Whigs refused to nominate Fillmore for a term of his own.  He left office in 1853, succeeded by Franklin Pierce.

Fillmore’s greatest accomplishment as president, perhaps, was his sending a fleet of ships to Japan to force that nation to open up to trade from the U.S.  The political furor over the Fugitive Slave Act, the Missouri Compromise, and other issues around slavery, tend to eclipse the memory of the good that Fillmore did.

Nota bene:  Controversy surrounded the death of Taylor.  Because he had threatened southern secessionists and incurred anger from several other groups, from the time of his death there were rumors he had been poisoned with arsenic.  Officially, the cause of death was gastroenteritis; popular accounts note that he had, in the heat of July, drunk milk and eaten cherries and cucumbers.  Certainly strep, staph or other bacteria in the milk could have created a problem.  In 1991 a team led by George Washington University Law Professor James Starrs exhumed Taylor’s body from his Louisville, Kentucky burial plot, and tested his remains for arsenic at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Analysis presented to the Kentucky medical examiner indicated arsenic levels way too low for a poisoning victim.

[This is an encore post, in parts.]

More:

"An Available Candidate: The One Qualific...

“An Available Candidate: The One Qualification for a Whig President”. Political cartoon about the 1848 presidential election which refers to Zachary Taylor or Winfield Scott, the two leading contenders for the Whig Party nomination in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. Published by Nathaniel Currier in 1848, digitally restored. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  Despite the cynicism of many , Zachary Taylor won the Whig Party nomination, and the presidency.  Taylor died just over a year after his inauguration.


“John Brown’s Body” becoming “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”: Managing expectations of a nation during a civil war

November 27, 2011

Our textbooks and curriculum guides too often fail to make clear the links between the bloody conflicts in the Kansas Territory and the Civil War, between the conflicts engaged in by men like John Brown in Kansas, and later at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and the conflicts of the Civil War.

We might make the history more vivid and clear with the use of Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” an epic war song based closely on a folk tune favored by Union troops of the time, conscripted specifically because of that affinity by Howe to serve the greater action of repurposing the war from merely saving the Union to freeing people from bondage.  It’s a study in propaganda earlier than we usually think of it.

Prof. R. Blakeslee Gilpin’s essay explaining those links, and exposing the substantial and usually hidden role Julia Ward Howe’s husband played in Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, appears in the New York Times’s coverage of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  As identified at the NYT website, Gilpin is a visiting assistant professor of history at the University of South Carolina, and the author of a book on the issue, John Brown Still Lives!: America’s Long Reckoning With Violence, Equality, and Change.

Early lyric sheet for "Battle Hymn of the Republic," by Julia Ward Howe, Library of Congress via New York Times

An early lyric sheet for "Battle Hymn of the Republic," by Julia Ward Howe, Library of Congress via New York Times

Most of my students claim not to know the song, “John Brown’s Body,” and an astonishing number of the students say they don’t know “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  It’s a chance to bore them — or instruct them, if the planets and stars align — using a bit of music (a teacher should be able to find a copy of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s version of the “The Battle Hymn” with little difficulty; it appears in the hymnals of most Protestant sects, so you can get a copy of the lyrics; you’ll have to do a search to find a good copy of  “John Brown’s Body,” though; I’ve not found one I like to use in class).

It might be a short lesson, an adjunct to a lesson, or a project for a student with some choir training.

Gilpin wrote:

Even if Howe’s song spoke to a different understanding of the war, her efforts to transform “John Brown’s Body” into a national patriotic text meant that, much like Brown’s afterlife, people would end up using and abusing “Battle Hymn” as they saw fit. What Howe observed in that Union camp outside of Washington in 1861 was just the beginning of a war of clashing agendas and endlessly obscured meanings. To be sure, those north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line knew that the developing war was being fought over slavery – its brutal realities, its political volatility and especially its uncertain future – but even in its opening months, commentary about the war was already cloaked in the bland language of preserving the Union or defending states’ rights. Assessing the war itself, Howe later wrote that “its cruel fangs fastened upon the very heart of Boston and took from us our best and bravest.”

For Howe and generations of Americans, the cruelty of war demanded a providential overseer. Despite her urge to celebrate noble-hearted men like Brown, “Battle Hymn” helped to take responsibility for the Civil War out of the brutal and clumsy hands of ordinary mortals. To be sure, Brown his death would help to make his nation holy and especially to make all men free, but his radical extremism was frightening to most Americans. Soon enough, the Civil War would be transformed by songs like Howe’s into a conflict of necessity and destiny – a providential trial by fire. That narrative, of a harrowing but essential national adolescence, would eventually be at the expense of those Brown had died for, and whose fate the war was being fought to settle.

More links and a couple of original documents can be found at the NYT site — I would encourage all U.S. history teachers to subscribe to the paper’s coverage of the sesquicentennial of the war.


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